KENNESAW -- Etowah earned a spot in the state volleyball semifinals for the third time in five years after a close, hard-fought 3-2 victory over Kennesaw Mountain in a Class AAAAAAA quarterfinal contest Saturday.
The Lady Eagles came back from a 2-1 deficit to win the final two sets of the match and advance to a semifinal matchup at home against Region 4AAAAAAA rival Lassiter on Tuesday.
Etowah (35-13) returned to the final four for the first time since 2017, when it ultimately lost to Walton in the Class AAAAAAA final. The Lady Eagles were also semifinalists in 2015.
“It feels great,” Etowah coach Kim Robertson said. “(On Saturday), these young kids stepped up and I’m proud of them.”
The Bray sisters -- senior Savannah and freshman Sydney -- led the way for Etowah. Savannah Bray had 28 kills and 19 digs, while Sydney Bray had 24 assists, 22 digs and three aces.
“Savannah Bray is having a heck of a year, and she’s carrying the kids,” Robertson said.
Sydney Britton contributed 37 digs for the Lady Eagles.
It was a disappointing finish for Kennesaw Mountain (33-14), which had advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2008.
“Etowah is a good team, and the two Bray sisters are a lot to handle,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Michael Loyd said.
Milana Thornton led Kennesaw Mountain with 15 kills, while Leila Gainsford contributed 13 kills, Emily Maddocks had five kills and three aces, Olivia Pugh had six kills and Brynnan Thompson had three kills for the Lady Mustangs.
Etowah won the first set 25-19, but Kennesaw Mountain came right back to win the second set 25-21 and the third set 25-19 to go up 2-1.
The early part of the fourth set was a close-fought battle as both teams exchanged the lead several times.
Things began to turn in Etowah’s favor with the score tied at 11-all as the Lady Eagles scored 11 unanswered points and outscored Kennesaw Mountain 14-2 to clinch the fourth set 25-13.
The Lady Eagles maintained their momentum early in the fifth set as they jumped out to a 8-3 lead, with Savannah Bray contributing four kills and Sydney Bray adding two.
Kennesaw Mountain responded with a 7-2 run to even the score at 10-all, but it was unable to claim the lead as Etowah outscored the Lady Mustangs 5-2 to win the fifth set 15-12 and clinch the match.
“The kids got behind and we had a little bit of a break in between games and we just told the kids not to panic, to slow down and play their type of ball,” Robertson said. “Let the other team beat us instead of us beating ourselves. The kids bought into that. We slowed down a little bit. That was a tough, tough match and both teams played well.”